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Publication numberUS6276713 B1
Publication typeGrant
Application numberUS 09/562,860
Publication dateAug 21, 2001
Filing dateMay 1, 2000
Priority dateMay 1, 2000
Fee statusPaid
Also published asCA2407565A1, DE60107831D1, DE60107831T2, EP1278658A1, EP1278658A4, EP1278658B1, WO2001083268A1
Publication number09562860, 562860, US 6276713 B1, US 6276713B1, US-B1-6276713, US6276713 B1, US6276713B1
InventorsScott J. Duletzke
Original AssigneeTextron Automotive Company Inc.
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Passenger protection apparatus for a motor vehicle
US 6276713 B1
Abstract
A passenger protection apparatus for a motor vehicle is provided comprising a first interior trim member and a second interior trim member. The first interior trim member, preferably an instrument panel, is attached to the motor vehicle and the second interior trim member attached to the first interior trim member. The second trim member is attached to the first trim member such that the second interior trim member is removable from the first interior trim member without detaching the first interior tnm member from the motor vehicle The second interior trim member is located in the knee impact region of the motor vehicle and comprises a first energy management device in the form of an inflatable restraint apparatus having an airbag and an inflator. In this manner, the passenger protection apparatus provides a structure which includes an inflatable restraint apparatus which is easily replaceable in a motor vehicle without having to remove the instrument panel
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Claims(20)
I claim:
1. A passenger protection apparatus for a motor vehicle comprising:
a first interior trim member comprising an instrument panel attachable to the motor vehicle;
a second interior trim member attached to the first interior trim member, the second interior trim member replaceable in the motor vehicle without detaching the first interior trim member from the motor vehicle;
the second interior trim member located in the knee impact region of the instrument panel, the second interior trim member comprising a first energy management device therein and a second energy management device;
the first energy management device comprising an inflatable restraint apparatus, the inflatable restraint apparatus comprising an airbag and an inflator disposed behind the airbag, the airbag of a size to protect the torso of a vehicle occupant; and
the second energy management device comprising a knee impact structure, the knee impact structure in a position for a knee impact before and after a deployment of the airbag.
2. The passenger protection apparatus of claim 1 wherein the second energy management device comprises a polymer foam.
3. The passenger protection apparatus of claim 2 wherein the polymer foam is a polyurethane foam.
4. The passenger protection apparatus of claim 1 wherein the second interior trim member comprises a cover.
5. The passenger protection apparatus of claim 4 wherein the cover comprises a steering column cover.
6. The passenger protection apparatus of claim 4 wherein the cover comprises a knee bolster.
7. The passenger protection apparatus of claim 4 wherein the cover comprises a glove compartment cover.
8. The passenger protection apparatus of claim 1 wherein the second interior trim member comprises a glove compartment bin.
9. The passenger protection apparatus of claim 1 wherein the second interior trim member further comprises an outer shell, the outer shell overlying both the first energy management device and the second energy management device.
10. The passenger protection apparatus of claim 9 wherein the outer shell forms an aperture through which an airbag may deploy.
11. The passenger protection apparatus of claim 1 wherein the second interior trim member has an opened position and a closed position relative to the first interior trim member; and
a deployment of the inflatable restraint apparatus is active when the second interior trim member is in the closed position and inactive when the second interior trim member is in the opened position.
12. A passenger protection apparatus for a motor vehicle comprising:
a first interior trim member comprising an instrument panel attachable to the motor vehicle;
a second interior trim member attached to the first interior trim member, the second interior trim member replaceable in the motor vehicle without detaching the first interior trim member from the motor vehicle;
the second interior trim member located in the knee impact region of the instrument panel, the second interior trim member comprising a first energy management device therein and a second energy management device;
the first energy management device comprising an inflatable restraint apparatus, the inflatable restraint apparatus comprising an airbag and an inflator disposed behind the airbag, the airbag of a size to protect the torso of a vehicle occupant; and
the second energy management device comprising a knee impact structure, the knee impact structure in a position for a knee impact both before and after a deployment of the airbag, the knee impact structure disposed beside the inflatable restraint apparatus.
13. The passenger protection apparatus of claim 12 wherein the second energy management device comprises a polymer foam.
14. The passenger protection apparatus of claim 13 wherein the polymer foam is a polyurethane foam.
15. The passenger protection apparatus of claim 12 wherein the second interior trim member comprises a cover.
16. The passenger protection apparatus of claim 15 wherein the cover comprises a steering column cover.
17. The passenger protection apparatus of claim 15 wherein the cover comprises a knee bolster.
18. The passenger protection apparatus of claim 15 wherein the cover comprises a glove compartment cover.
19. The passenger protection apparatus of claim 12 wherein the second interior trim member comprises a glove compartment bin.
20. The passenger protection apparatus of claim 12 wherein the second interior trim member has an opened position and a closed position relative to the first interior trim member; and
a deployment of the inflatable restraint apparatus is active when the second interior trim member is in the closed position and inactive when the second interior trim member is in the opened position.
Description
FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to a passenger protection apparatus for a motor vehicle and, more particularly, a passenger protection apparatus which includes an inflatable restraint.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Passenger collision protection devices are known in which an inflatable restraint apparatus is disposed within an instrument panel assembly. Upon airbag deployment, the instrument panel often permanently deforms necessitating replacement of the instrument panel in addition to the inflatable restraint apparatus. Replacement of the instrument panel, in addition to the inflatable restraint apparatus, is time consuming and expensive.

In addition to providing an inflatable restraint apparatus, instrument panel assemblies also may include a separate energy absorbing structure designed to absorb energy in response to the impact of a vehicle occupant's knee. Separate energy absorbing structures for the protection of a vehicle occupant's knees have been required as vehicle occupant's knees generally fall outside the range of the airbag used to protect the torso. In addition, these knee impact structures provide the occupant with an continual level of protection (i.e. in all vehicle frontal collisions), not only those in which the airbag is deployed. However, similar to an inflatable restraint, in response to a vehicle collision in which they permanently deform, the knee impact structures must be removed and replaced.

What is needed is a structure which includes an inflatable restraint apparatus which is easily replaceable in a motor vehicle without having to remove the instrument panel. Additionally, what is needed is a structure which provides an inflatable restraint apparatus and a knee impact structure integrated into a single structure for easy replacement.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

A passenger protection apparatus for a motor vehicle is provided comprising a first interior trim member and a second interior trim member. The first interior trim member, preferably an instrument panel, is attached to the motor vehicle and the second interior trim member attached to the first interior trim member. The second trim member is attached to the first trim member such that the second interior trim member is removable from the first interior trim member without detaching the first interior trim member from the motor vehicle. The second interior trim member is located in the knee impact region of the motor vehicle and comprises a first energy management device in the form of an inflatable restraint apparatus having an airbag. In this manner, the passenger protection apparatus provides a structure which includes an inflatable restraint apparatus which is easily replaceable in a motor vehicle without having to remove the instrument panel.

The second trim member may comprise a second energy management device, preferably a polyurethane foam, configured to be impacted by a knee of a vehicle occupant. In this manner, the passenger protection apparatus provides an inflatable restraint apparatus and a knee impact structure integrated into a single structure for easy replacement.

Preferably, the second trim member comprises a cover such as a steering column cover, a knee bolster, or a glove compartment cover. Where the second trim member is a glove compartment cover, preferably the cover is disposed adjacent a glove compartment.

Preferably, the second trim member also comprises an outer shell overlying both the first energy management device and the second energy management device. The outer shell preferably forms an aperture through which an airbag may deploy.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The invention will be better understood from a reading of the following detailed description taken in conjunction with the drawings in which like reference designators are used to designate like elements, and in which:

FIG. 1 is a cross-sectional view of a the passenger protection apparatus according to the present invention as a glove box door in a closed position;

FIG. 2 is a cross-sectional view of a the passenger protection apparatus according to the present invention as a glove box door in a open position; and

FIG. 3 is a cross-sectional view of the a the passenger protection apparatus according to the present invention as a glove box door after deployment of an airbag.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

A first exemplary interior trim member in the form of instrument panel 12 is shown in FIGS. 1-3. Instrument panel 12 is attached to a portion of the chassis of a motor vehicle, such as the fire wall 34. A storage compartment in the form of a glove compartment 14 is disposed within the passenger side of instrument panel 12. A second exemplary interior trim member in the form of a cover 18 is preferably disposed adjacent and includes glove compartment 14. Cover 18 is preferably attached to instrument panel 12 by a hinge 20. As shown in FIGS. 1-3, cover 18 is preferably positioned below the horizontal midpoint of instrument panel 12 in the knee impact region of the instrument panel 12. Access to glove compartment 14 is provided by an aperture 22 while glove compartment 14 is in an open state.

In other embodiments glove compartment 14 may not be attached to the cover 18, but rather fixed within the confines of instrument panel 12. Also, in other embodiments, cover 18 may not be disposed adjacent a glove compartment. For example cover 18 may comprise a knee bolster or steering column cover, which covers the lower region of the instrument panel 12 on the driver's side of the vehicle (opposed to the passenger side of the vehicle where the glove compartment is normally located) below the steering column.

Cover 18 preferably comprises a knee impact structure 22. Knee impact structure 22 is suited for receiving an impact from a vehicle occupant's knees in response to a vehicle frontal collision. Knee impact structure 22 preferably absorbs force and energy exerted on the vehicle occupant's knees as a result of the impact, thus reducing the likelihood of injury. Preferably knee impact structure 22 comprises a polymer foam, and more preferably a polyurethane foam. Even more preferably knee impact structure 22 comprises a rigid polyurethane foam, such as disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 5,232,957 assigned to the assignee of the present invention and hereby incorporated by reference.

Cover 18 also comprises an inflatable restraint apparatus 24 disposed adjacent knee impact structure 22. Inflatable restraint 24 comprises an airbag 26. Inflatable restraint 24 also preferably comprises an inflator 28. Airbag 26 preferably is of a size and shape to protect the torso and knees of a vehicle occupant in response to a vehicle frontal collision. In this manner, airbag 26 provides a second energy management device (i.e. absorbs or transmits energy) for the protection to the vehicle occupant's knees in addition to knee impact structure 22. Consequently, knee impact structure 22 affords the vehicle occupant's knees a level of protection in all vehicle frontal collisions (i.e. not just those where airbag 26 is deployed), while airbag 26 provides added protection to the vehicle occupant's knees in those particularly serious vehicle collisions where airbag 26 is deployed.

Knee impact structure 22 and inflatable restraint 24 of cover 18 are concealed by an outer shell 30. Preferably, outer shell 30 is continuous between knee impact structure 22 and inflatable restraint 24, and comprises a polymer material. More preferably outer shell 30 comprises a thermoplastic material such as polyvinyl chloride or polyurethane. In the event of a vehicle collision in which airbag 26 is deployed, the outer shell overlying inflatable restraint 24 forms an aperture 32 through which the airbag 26 may deploy in a manner known in the art.

Inflatable restraint 24 preferably also comprises a sensor, such as a switch, which senses whether cover 18 is in an open or closed position. If cover 18 is in an open position, preferably the firing circuit for inflatable restraint 24 is also in an open position and the inflatable restraint will not activate. Conversely, if cover 18 is in a closed position, preferably the firing circuit for inflatable restraint 24 is also in the closed position and the inflatable restraint will activate.

After use of knee impact structure 22 and/or inflatable restraint 24, cover 18 of the passenger protection apparatus of the present invention can be easily detached from the instrument panel 12 without damage and replaced without the cost or time involved with replacing instrument panel 12 of the prior art systems. Cover 18 may be removed from instrument panel 12 by removing the threaded fasteners 36, then replaced in similar fashion by reinstalling the threaded fasteners 36.

I intend the above description to illustrate embodiments of the present invention by using descriptive rather than limiting words. Obviously, there are many ways that one might modify these embodiments while remaining within the scope of the claims. In other words, there are many other ways that one may practice the present invention without exceeding the scope of the claims herein.

Patent Citations
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Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US6971667Jan 14, 2003Dec 6, 2005Autoliv Asp, Inc.Glove compartment airbag system
US7121605 *Mar 17, 2004Oct 17, 2006Lear CorporationGlove box with sensor
US7175195Dec 9, 2003Feb 13, 2007Toyoda Gosei Co., Ltd.Occupant protection device
US7261318 *Dec 1, 2003Aug 28, 2007Autoliv Asp, Inc.Knee airbag and glove box assembly
US7950688Mar 31, 2009May 31, 2011Tk Holdings Inc.Airbag module
US8215666Sep 17, 2008Jul 10, 2012Toyota Jidosha Kabushiki KaishaKnee air bag device for vehicle
US8235414Nov 12, 2008Aug 7, 2012Toyota Jidosha Kabushiki KaishaGlove door-installed knee air bag apparatus
US8262126 *Feb 9, 2009Sep 11, 2012Toyota Jidosha Kabushiki KaishaAir bag apparatus for a vehicle
US8308189Mar 10, 2009Nov 13, 2012Toyota Jidosha Kabushiki KaishaKnee airbag for vehicle
US8444177 *Feb 25, 2008May 21, 2013Autoliv Development AbAssembly with an instrument panel for a motor vehicle and a knee airbag
US8596681May 30, 2012Dec 3, 2013Nissan North America, Inc.Internal deployable vehicle panel assembly
US8622418Mar 1, 2013Jan 7, 2014Autoliv Development AbMethod for manufacturing knee airbag cushion
US20090212541 *Feb 25, 2008Aug 27, 2009Autoliv Development AbAssembly with an instrument panel for a motor vehicle and a knee airbag
US20100327566 *Feb 9, 2009Dec 30, 2010Hitoshi MatsushimaAir bag apparatus for a vehicle
CN102348582BMar 10, 2009Jan 2, 2013丰田自动车株式会社Knee airbag for vehicle
DE102009019076A1Apr 27, 2009Nov 11, 2010GM Global Technology Operations, Inc., DetroitProtection device for vehicle cabin, has air bag modules, where former airbag module is arranged in coordinate system, whose origin is arranged in relation to dummy
DE102009019077A1Apr 27, 2009Oct 28, 2010GM Global Technology Operations, Inc., DetroitAir-bag module i.e. knee air-bag, for use in safety device for vehicle cabine, has housing including outlet side with air-bag that is spread with gas, where module is formed for lining-free and cladding-free integration in vehicle cabine
WO2009038086A1Sep 17, 2008Mar 26, 2009Toyota Motor Co LtdKnee air bag device for vehicle
WO2010103622A1Mar 10, 2009Sep 16, 2010Toyota Jidosha Kabushiki KaishaKnee airbag for vehicle
Classifications
U.S. Classification280/732, 280/752
International ClassificationB60R21/206, B60K37/00, B60R21/00
Cooperative ClassificationB60R21/206, B60R2021/0051
European ClassificationB60R21/206
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
Feb 14, 2013FPAYFee payment
Year of fee payment: 12
Feb 12, 2009FPAYFee payment
Year of fee payment: 8
Feb 22, 2005FPAYFee payment
Year of fee payment: 4
Oct 29, 2004ASAssignment
Owner name: COLLINS & ALKMAN PROUCTS CO., MICHIGAN
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:KAUTEX, INC. (F/K/A) TEXTRON AUTOMOTIVE COMPANY, INC.;REEL/FRAME:015312/0258
Effective date: 20011220
Owner name: COLLINS & ALKMAN PROUCTS CO. 350 STEPHENSON HWYTRO
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:KAUTEX, INC. (F/K/A) TEXTRON AUTOMOTIVE COMPANY, INC. /AR;REEL/FRAME:015312/0258
Mar 25, 2002ASAssignment
Owner name: JPMORGAN CHASE BANK, AS COLLATERAL AGENT, TEXAS
Free format text: SECURITY INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:COLLINS & AIKMAN DEVELOPMENT COMPANY (DE CORPORATION);REEL/FRAME:012676/0783
Effective date: 20011220
Owner name: JPMORGAN CHASE BANK, AS COLLATERAL AGENT PO BOX 25
Free format text: SECURITY INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:COLLINS & AIKMAN DEVELOPMENT COMPANY (DE CORPORATION) /AR;REEL/FRAME:012676/0783
May 1, 2000ASAssignment
Owner name: TEXTRON AUTOMOTIVE COMPANY, INC., MICHIGAN
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:DULETZKE, SCOTT J.;REEL/FRAME:010771/0356
Effective date: 20000425
Owner name: TEXTRON AUTOMOTIVE COMPANY, INC. 750 STEPHENSON HI